Biden recently reported on his talk with President Xi Jinping and he stated something which has social media and the mainstream media rightfully in an uproar. Basically, he said that in his fist major conversation with Xi, he discussed the persecution of the Uyghur and based on Xi’s remarks, shared that he thinks the current situation is a merely a result of China’s “different norms.” This is such a huge problem its hard to even know where to start. Genocide is not a cultural norm. Biden’s work in politics has been oriented around the work to promote American values, including democracy and human rights, and a core American value is religious freedom. Does Biden really think that we can not stand up for these values just because China is a strong nation? Why doesn’t Biden feel the need to defend American values when it comes to genocide based on religious persecution? Doesn’t it matter to Biden that China seems to have not the least bit of concern for human rights? For freedom? For anything that the international community has stood up for? It’s not just “different norms” when it comes to genocide. It’s mass murder, it’s grave atrocities, it’s a crisis that we as people of conscience have to respond to with more than statements about cultural relativism.
There is a current decision being made in Washington about whether or not to determine that the Chinese treatment of the Uyghurs in China as genocide. One of the last things the Trump Administration did before leaving office was declare the treatment of the Uyghurs genocide, but the Biden administration is reassessing this decision. Reuters reports that Anthony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, has stated on record that the Chinese are committing genocide. President Joe Biden’s pick to be UN ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is potentially going to be key if she is confirmed. An eminently qualified diplomat, LTG is known for what she calls “gumbo diplomacy,” where she works to make connections on a person-to-person basis. It’s “more than shaking hands and photo ops” but rather finding common ground. The issue in her confirmation hearings were many, and many of them were deeply connected to China, who many see as having stepped into the power vacuum left by Trump.
It is a potential bright spot in U.S. foreign policy that Biden has chosen to nominate a diplomat of her character and standing as UN Ambassador. LTG stated the UN is “uniquely poised to take on our collective challenges,” and is the greatest peace organization ever created according to many. She stated that she believes that her work at the UN should be informed by American values and UN values. Primarily, she stated that U.S. leadership must be rooted in the core values of democracy, human rights, and the promotion of peace and security. What could be more central to this as a first step than continuing to do the one responsible step the U.S. took against China and resist — and correctly label — these gross human rights violations?
It’s not just “different norms” when it comes to genocide. It’s mass murder, it’s grave atrocities, it’s a crisis that we as people of conscience have to respond to with more than statements about cultural relativism.
It is noticeable that the Trump administration, who allowed China’s dominance at the UN to increase dramatically, declared the gross human rights violations of China against the Uyghur as genocide. The Biden administration’s decision to re-evaluate this determination by the Trump administration seems strange in some ways. If LTG is confirmed, and the goal is to advance traditional goals of the UN, of universal human rights, it seems like an obvious choice to continue the push back against Chinese policies towards the Uyghur.
In light of the free choice of the Biden/Harris administration to maintain sanctions against Iran when we have broken out treaties with them and assassinated their leaders, LTG’s comments in her confirmation hearing that sanctions against China should be an option for the U.S. approach to China seems like an obvious and natural thought at this point in time. Biden, Harris, and Blinken have all expressed their concern about China’s influence on issues of human rights in general, and the UN specifically. It is a major component of a coherent response to China to continue to work to resist China’s genocidal policies, both in U.S. trade policies, and in the U.S. support of UN resolutions.
The declaration that China’s policies against the Uyghur constitute genocide is a first step. Banning the import of goods from forced labor in China, which was struck down in the Senate, should be reintroduced. Popular pressure on the U.S. government on this issue can only help. This is not a question of “different norms.” There are fundamental values that the whole world has declared that we hold dear. We as a nation need to step up and defend these values, and this includes standing up for the rights of the Uyghur.
Sarah is a social worker in the San Francisco Bay Area with at-risk and homeless youth. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.